Fossils Found In Morocco Suggest Pan-African Origin of Humans

Oldest Homo sapien fossils discovered in Morocco adds 100,000 years to the history of modern humans.

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Scientists reported the discovery of the oldest remains of Homo sapiens from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco on Wednesday, adding an interesting angle to the findings of mankind’s origins. These fossils are roughly 100,000 years older than any previously described modern human bones.

The bones found are said to be from “early anatomically modern” humans — our own species with a mixture of modern and primitive traits.

This material represents the very root of our species.
Jean-Jacques Hublin, paleoanthropologist, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Oldest Homo sapien fossils discovered in Morocco adds 100,000 years to the history of modern humans.
Jean-Jaques Hublin. (Photo Courtesy: MPI-EVA Leipzig)

Hublin helped lead the research published in the journal Nature.


Previous Discoveries

Based on previous discoveries, experts suggested that human ancestors evolved into our species 200,000 years ago. But the new fossils shift that window in time back half again as long, to 300,000 years.

Before the discovery at the site called Jebel Irhoud, located between Marrakech and Morocco's Atlantic coast, the oldest Homo Sapiens fossils were known from an Ethiopian site called Omo Kibish, dated to 195,000 years ago.


What Has Been Found

The Moroccan fossils, found in what was a cave setting, represented three adults, one adolescent and one child roughly eight years old, thought to have lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Scientists determined that the skulls, limb bones and teeth representing at least five individuals were about 300,000 years old.

Oldest Homo sapien fossils discovered in Morocco adds 100,000 years to the history of modern humans.
An almost complete adult mandible has been found at Jebel Irhoud. (Photo Courtesy: Jean-Jacques Hublin/MPI-EVA Leipzig)

Scientists largely believe that Homo Sapiens originated in Africa. These findings suggest a complex evolutionary history probably involving the entire continent, with Homo Sapiens, by 300,000 years ago, dispersed all over Africa.

The message we would like to convey is that our species is much older than we thought and that it did not emerge in an Adamic way in a small ‘Garden of Eden’ somewhere in East Africa. It is a pan-African process and more complex scenario that what has been envisioned so far.

Fossil evidence points to an African origin of Homo sapiens from a group called either H. heidelbergensis or H. rhodesiensis.


However, the exact place and time of emergence of Homo Sapiens remain obscure because the fossil record is scarce and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain.

(With inputs from Reuters and research published in the journal Nature)

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Topics:  Humans 

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